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What does DUI mean in Texas?

DUI in Texas applies only to drivers under the age of 21.

This can be confusing because in other states, DUI often refers to a case where the driver is accused of being intoxicated on a controlled substance or illegal drug – something other than alcohol. In Texas, the DWI charge is used as a catch-all for any form of “Intoxication” as defined by the State of Texas. Intoxication in Texas is defined as: not having the normal use of a person’s mental or physical faculties or having a blood alcohol concentration of .080 or more. The Prosecutor has to be able to prove that the intoxication was caused consumption by alcohol, illegal drugs, controlled substances, another impairing substance, or a combination of these.


DWI requires that the Officer believe the driver is “Intoxicated” (from consuming alcohol or drugs, as defined above), versus DUI only requires that the Officer has found that (1) the driver is under 21 years old and has (2) “any detectable amount” of alcohol in their system.

DUI Punishment range:

1. Fine up to $500,

2. An automatic 60 day driver’s license suspension,

3. 20 – 40 hours of community service,

4. Automatic one-year driver license suspension if convicted, and

5. Be required to complete a 12-hour class in an authorized Alcohol Education Program. Note:

Failure to complete the Alcohol Education Program can result in an additional 180-day driver’s license suspension.

A minor may also receive a 90-day driver’s license suspension if an interlock ignition device and community service is ordered by the presiding judge. (A special driver license must be issued to drive with an interlock ignition device).

Can a driver under 21 only be charged with DUI, and not DWI?

No. While anyone under 21 can be charged with DUI, any driver 17 or over can be charged with DWI. The distinction is whether or not the Officer believes there is simply “any amount of alcohol” in the driver’s system, or if the Officer believes the driver is “intoxicated”. If the Officer believes the driver is “intoxicated” and 17 or over, the Officer can arrest the driver for DWI as an adult; in which case all of the adult punishments will be available to be applied by the Prosecutor. For a detailed explanation of DWI PUNISHMENTS click here.

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